Mountain Lion Attacks 2008

Locally, one of my neighbors just shared that a mountain lion was up on her roof. She lives on the edge of the forest and mistakenly went out to investigate why her dogs were going crazy.

Fortunately, the cougar took a 20 foot leap away from her and ran away. I’ve been thinking of carrying a firearm when I hike and this confirms that it probably would be a good idea.

Here we are seeing an increase of predators into the human populated area for a few reasons–the main one is that the large fires that swept through the area last fall left vast terrain uninhabitable to most of the larger wildlife.

So, the critters have relocated to adjacent areas and mountain lions, bobcats, and bears are being seen and encountered with more frequency because of it.

I’ve touched on this topic before but am revisiting it based on the two mountain lion attacks that have been in the news over the last week.

The first cougar attack allegedly took place in South Dakota on March 3, 2008. I dismissed it when I heard the preliminary reports but now I’ve taken a look at the photo of Ryan Hughes and the two tooth marks on his face–it could have been a younger, inexperienced cougar–or just a warning.

In our area, the wildlife biologists know where all the cougars reside. Last I checked, we had three but I probably should call again since after the fires there might be more.

I spoke to a reporter yesterday and then took some time to review the Hughes cougar attack accounts I’ve been ignoring. Currently the attack has not been confirmed by officials. I believe this is for a few reasons.

First, it would be the first documented cougar attack on a human in South Dakota history (at least we think it would be), then there is a bit of concern because of the alcohol content found in the blood of Ryan Hughes, and finally the investigative team seems to have gone out with lion dogs (these are dogs that specifically track mountain lions) and they did not pick up the scent.

Usually there will be some sort of sign or scent left in the area. Pug marks (mountain lion tracks), fur, scat, and in this case–Hughes reported that the cougar had a kill in its mouth (red fox). I would expect they would find an area where the kill took place.

So unanswered questions are: Did Hughes surprise the cougar? Was the cougar defending its prey? If so, did it go back to pick it up? Was it a different type of animal? And why would Hughes make up the attack?

People often mistake smaller predators for larger ones. In fact, here in California people have mistaken house cats for cougars and reported bobcats as mountain lions. However, Hughes did describe an irritated tail twitch. As of yesterday, the South Dakota cougar attack is still unconfirmed and under investigation by wildlife officials.

The lesson to be learned here is that you should have someone with you when out in the wilderness. I already gave you some mountain lion safety tips and encourage you to review them if you travel out into the wilderness or live in areas adjacent to wild lands.

Next, just this weekend a rabid mountain lion attempted an attack on 10-year-old Paul Schalow in Arizona. The family was celebrating Paul’s birthday on Saturday when the older female cougar launched her attack. You can catch the interview video about the cougar attack encounter here.

The cougar was transported by the family and criticized for it by one of the wildlife officials.

Okay, so where do we pick up our procedure manual on how to deal with a dead mountain lion that has just attempted an attack on our party?

Yikes, you expect someone to think clearly when the adrenalin flow is pumping?

The scratch marks didn’t look too bad in the footage I saw…so in both attack incidents are we maybe we are just seeing the larger-than-a-housecat version of a warning swipe?

Kidding, I’m kidding.

Cougar attacks are not so rare as they once were. I’ve also summarized just why I think animal attacks are on the increase here. However keep in mind that the risk to humans is pretty low in comparison to other animal injuries and attacks–in the captive animal world there are worse risks–check out this older Bureau of Labor Statistics page.

I read a recent gripe to the Eureka Reporter on just this topic (focusing on rare events) after a series on the California mountain lion attack on Jim Hamm:
Mountain Lion Attack Part One
Mountain Lion Attack Part Two
Mountain Lion Attack Part Three
Mountain Lion Attack Part Four
Mountain Lion Attack Part Five

Part of the reason for reporting such news is that it is novel. Next, there is a morbid fascination–maybe even an ancient ancestral dread of being eaten by a wild animal. Also, we are so removed from the natural world these days that is does capture our attention.

Anyway, although I have not updated my statistics on cougar attacks in a while (2004) you can find more info, links, and books related to the topic if you drop by for a gander.

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  1. Cheyenne ken says

    I live in Colorado and do a lot of hiking in the mountains by myself. I always carry a 44mag revolver, Bear Spray, Bowie knife, and a large hiking stick. I’ve not had to use any of them yet and hope I never have to. I feel better hiking alone because then I only have to worry about myself. It’s when I hike with my wife or friends that I get concerned about their safety. I guess it seems sort of weird but I’d rather be alone and enjoy the solitude of the wild.

  2. Sounds like you are prepared–you could use a face mask over the back of your head like some of the natives wear in the Sanderbans to deflect tiger attacks. 😉

    Just an FYI. I moderate all comments. They have to be approved before they appear due to spammers.